Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Japan Airlines JL123 crash remembered 30 years on.

August 12th marked the 30th year since Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] flight JL123, an ordinary domestic flight from Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] bound for Osaka/Itami [ITM/RJOO], crashed into Mount Osutaka in Ueno Village, Gunma. It claimed the lives of all but four of 509 passengers and 15 crew members aboard, making it the deadliest aviation accident in Japan and the deadliest single-airliner accident in history. Boeing 747SR-46 JA8119 was the aircraft involved.

JAL President Yoshiharu Ueki paid tribute at the crash site memorial, swearing safety would never be compromised again. Mr. Ueki has participated in the ceremony every year since taking office in 2012. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Last evening on August 11th, bereaved families and relatives floated lanterns on nearby Kanno River to honor those who perished and pray for aviation safety. On the following day today, hundreds of mourners hiked up the mountain to reach the crash site. Among them was Yoshiharu Ueki, JAL's current President. "I expressed my deepest condolence and apology to the 520 who died. I would like to apologize to the families and relatives for 30 years of suffering and sadness," said Mr. Ueki, adding "Lives come first. No compromise nor excuse is acceptable when it comes to safety. That is engrained in the hearts of the 32,000 employees at JAL."

A moment of silence was observed by participants at a ceremony that was held at the memorial facility near the foot of Mount Osutaka at 1856 JST, the exact time the ill-fated aircraft ended its short voyage. It was attended by 252 family members and relatives of the vitctims, as well as 104 officials from the local government, regulator Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB), and JAL, including Mr. Ueki, Chairman Masaru Onishi, and Vice President Nobuhiro Sato.

The doomed 747 that departed Haneda at 1812 on August 12th, 1985 quickly ran into trouble when a loud bang was heard followed by decompression. JA8119 had been involved in a tailstrike incident at Itami seven years earlier as flight JL115, and faulty repair of the damaged rear pressure bulkhead was determined as the cause of it not withstanding pressurization on the 12,319th flight after the fix. When the bulkhead gave way, the resulting explosive decompression ruptured the lines of all four hydraulic systems and ejected the vertical stabilizer. With the aircraft's flight controls disabled, the 747 became uncontrollable. Desperate efforts by the crew to tame the plane were in vain, and the aircraft crashed into Mount Osutaka approximately 30 minutes later.

Source: Aviation Wire, August 12th. (in Japanese)

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